Budgets and Bureaucracies
02-12-2009
If you caught Gov. Lynch’s budget address this morning, you are aware that he has given local political observers a lot to chew on in the coming weeks and months.  The state is looking at a hundred million dollar deficit for the remainder of this fiscal year, and the likelihood of one several times larger for the next biennium. As a result, Lynch faces a tremendous challenge in trying to balance the state budget for fiscal years 2010 and 2011.
 
As policymakers, the public, and the media take a closer look at the details of how the governor achieves that balance, there will no doubt be much discussion of the projected layoff of 250-300 state employees, the proposed increases in tolls and car registration fees, and a continued pledge to veto a statewide sales or income tax.
 
But I was also struck by the extent to which Lynch seemed to be proposing a reengineering of state government, through program consolidation, elimination, and redefinition based on a set of guiding policy principles and priorities. He could have simply slashed spending across the board, leaving existing bureaucracies financially austere, but largely intact. Instead, the governor seems to view the current economic crisis as an opportunity to fundamentally reposition state government for the future.
 
Actually following through on this tantalizing suggesting may turn out to be Lynch’s biggest challenge as his budget package is dissected in the state legislature over the next four months. Bureaucracies are often protective of their turf and remarkably resistant to change.  And the fact that the governor at several points mentioned that his proposal is only “one roadmap” makes me wonder a little about how hard he will push in the end for this sort of systemic change. But if the economy continues to worsen, there may be no better time for him to start this conversation than right now.

Comments:


Posted On: 02-12-2009 17:30:24 by Jim Splaine
The "turf battle" now is that the budget becomes a Legislative one. He's turned it over. From Day One it is undergoing change. The House and Senate Finance Committees will be having dozens of hearings and hundreds of hours of discussion, and will receive thousands of telephone calls and E-Mails about what should go into, and be taken out of, the State Budget. I thought John Lynch should get an "A+" for giving all of us a lot to think about. For that, he should be thanked. He's opened up the dialogue about the future of State Government. That's a mighty big step.


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